UN warns Switzerland over draft anti-terrorism law

The Swiss justice ministry received the letter, SonntagsBlick says. Keystone/Peter Klaunzer

The United Nations has written to the Swiss government over the country’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation, saying it opened the door to the arbitrary deprivation of liberty.


On Sunday, the Swiss justice ministry told the Keystone-SDA news agency that it had received a letter from the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, confirming a report that had appeared in Sunday’s SonntagsBlick newspaper.

The letter, signed by five special rapporteurs and sent last week, refers to new legislation aimed at preventing extremist violence which is currently under discussion in parliament.

+ Read more about the law’s proposals here

A ministry spokeswoman said that one of the controversial points, the preventive detention of potential terror offenders, had not been proposed by the government but by parliament. The measure could not be put into place because it would contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.

Last year the Swiss government proposed new legislation aimed at preventing extremist violence and forcing people, including children aged 12 upwards, deemed a threat to be registered with the authorities. House arrest, a last resort in some cases, could also be applied to suspects.

The Senate has already approved the draft; the House of Representatives will consider the law in mid June. But the House of Representatives Security Policy Committee has already said that it wants to sharpen the law and add in preventive detention.

Concerns raised

The UN letter fears that the law would lead to considerable violations of human and fundamental rights. In its present form, the law is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, nor with the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, the authors say, according to SonntagsBlick newspaper. The letter added that the law was formulated in an imprecise way, which could lead to the arbitrary deprivation of liberty, the newspaper added.

In mid May the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights made her concerns about the draft law clear in a separate letter. In it, she invited “parliamentarians to review the draft law on police counter-terrorism measures in order to ensure that all human rights standards are respected”.

Further criticism has come from Amnesty International which earlier this year condemned the law as “draconian”.

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